A few years ago we had a possum problem at our house. We decided to set a small animal trap so we could capture and then safely release the critter into a nice wooded area far enough away that he would not find his way back to our yard. So, we placed our trap and went to bed. The next day we discovered that we didn’t have an opossum problem at all. We had a skunk problem. If you have ever set out to catch an opossum but instead snagged a skunk, you know it’s a stinky situation to be in.
I fear that many of our kids are being baited into the traps that have been set by a secular and ungodly world, and the outcome really stinks.
Statistics and anecdotal evidence both suggest that the lives, values, and pursuits of “Christian” kids and families are largely indistinguishable from those of their unbelieving neighbors.
Research gathered in a partnership between Lifeway Kids and Lifeway Research and reported in the book, Nothing Less by Jana Magruder, shows that 25% of Christian parents said that their top goal was for their kids to grow up to be happy. 22% said their top desire was for their kids to be successful. 19% said they wanted their kids to be “good people.” 17% said their emphasis was on their kids’ education.
Only 9% of the Christian parents surveyed said that their top priority was for their kids to grow up to be godly.
Don’t miss that stat. Less than 10% of 2000 “Christian” parents surveyed have the goal of godliness as the top priority for their children. That answer is both sad and revealing. Is it truly a surprise that so many kids from believing families walk away from their faith when they leave home?
Please hear me, there is nothing wrong with wanting happiness and success and education and good-ness for our kids—I want all of those things for my own children—but each of those things must be defined and pursued in the context of the preeminent goal of godliness.
The Word warns us of the stink we will experience if we do not train our children to be godly. In the absence of a top-level pursuit of godliness the world will teach our kids to be something entirely the opposite.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul cautions his protege that, “Hard times will come in the last days. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:1-9
Read that list again.
It could have been written yesterday to describe people today. It outlines the characteristics that our culture commends, and that our kids are being conditioned to seek and celebrate.
We need to be careful what narratives our ministries perpetuate. Our children do not need to be taught how important they are; they need to be shown how holy God is. They don’t need to be taught how to fit-in with a godless culture; they need to understand that they are not of this world. They do not need to be taught how to blend in; they need to be equipped with courage to stand up and to stand out.
As ministers of the gospel we have a responsibility to push against the priorities of our culture and spur-on kids and parents to chase after godliness before anything else. The chief goals of a child’s life must not be his happiness, success, popularity, fame, education, health, wealth, or social status. The chief goals must always be his redemption and right-relationship with God.
Mark asks a very pertinent question in Mark 8:36. “what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Thankfully, I did not trap a skunk in my cage. Once I was aware of the real situation, I was able to remove the trap before I caught a living stink bomb. My prayer is that we, as ministry leaders, will have the courage and foresight to identify and disarm the traps that Satan has set against our children. May we help them to have eyes to see the dangers of running after the wrong things, and direct them to instead chase after Jesus with all of their strength.
Chuck Peters is Director of Lifeway Kids. Before his role at Lifeway, Chuck had a prolific career in television and video production. He is a 3-time Emmy Award Winning producer, director, writer and on-screen talent. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck, and his wife, Cris, have served in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.